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Vicar of Morwenstow 4: 9 November

M141109a On Saturday my colleagues and I went down to Lybster, a small fishing village along the coast south of Wick. We took a carload of archives for local people to look at—including some lovely hand-coloured maps of the harbour, a Victorian school log book, and (a perennial favourite) a police conviction book.

It’s always fun to find out that human nature hasn’t changed much down the ages. So the book is full of convictions for theft, drunkenness, dangerous driving (with a horse-drawn cart), the ever-popular “malicious mischief”, and even stealing a rabbit trap from the local estate, and theft of a turnip from Thurso.

M141109bBut if you really want proof that previous generations were no better than, well, we ourselves, look no further than the records of the Kirk Session, a monthly meeting of the parish elders to consider cases of morality. These were common across Scotland: in one case a woman is brought before the court for “lifting her skirt” to strangers, while in another a couple have to explain how they were seen lying together in a meadow, and she with her skirts “above her knees”. (I know, it’s almost too shocking to imagine; not that I haven’t tried.)


Caithness Police Conviction Book
Courtesy of Caithness Archives

In one three-month period in the early part of last century, the Kirk Sessions for Latheron, the parish Lybster lies in, dealt with five cases of illegitimate children. But there’s a twist: you might expect the mothers to be outcast, condemned like characters in a Thomas Hardy novel; but in the early 1900s, once they admitted the error of their ways and accepted the discipline of the congregation, that was the end of it. They were forgiven and everyone moved on—which shows, I guess, that you should never take history for granted.

Now I’m having to work for a living, instead of lounging around at home watching the rain explode against the windows like birdstrikes on a 747, the gansey knitting has slowed down. Still, I’ve divided for front and back, put the gussets on holders, and am embarked on the back. The chequer pattern’s becoming clearer now, and I have great hopes that when I’m sleeping people will be able to use me as a chessboard.

Finally this week, many congratulations to Vicky for this splendid gansey, using a combination of Polperro patterns from Mary Wright’s book, and knitted in Frangipani Cornish fudge. (Note to self: yet another colour to try.) From the look on the dog’s face, I’m guessing the next step will be a canine gansey…

4 comments to Vicar of Morwenstow 4: 9 November

  • Jane

    Great work on the gansey. Such a lovely colour, so cheering on these grey days!

    The greyness and rain has reached the South Coast, the birds have taken to sheltering under trees, the peacocks on the front door step. I tell them that fluffing up is the new look. The deer disappeared when the neighbours got the fireworks out, but I live in hope of their return to the poultry mix of the bird table.

    I have indeed embarked on a second small item, a yoda jacket in denim blue garter stitch. The garter stitch is interesting, to look good it needs just a gentle regular tension. The other interesting thing is it knits in one flat piece and is seamed at side and sleeve, a bit like Lego! Stay dry!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      Yes, just now we get one nice day followed by a week of rain and gales. The novelty, I can tell you, is beginning to wear off… Hope it picks up for you soon.

      Best of luck with the Yoda jacket. If you ever find a pattern for a knitted lightsabre, let me know—or a Lego castle! (And bad Yoda impersonations make I will not, promise it I do…)

  • Marilyn

    Hello to Gordon and the parish, I hear the sound of a shovel scraping ice off the sidewalk as I write, Minneapolis had it’s first snowfall yesterday, which partially melted and refroze over night. Wooly garments have great appeal in this environment, aren’t we lucky we can knit our own?
    Lovely gansey, Vicky, it looks very nice with your blond hair.
    Nice to see the progress on yours, Gordon, knitting does keep you out of “malicious mischief” doesn’t it?

    • Gordon

      Hello Marilyn,

      We’ve forsaken arctic cold in favour of wild and wet. To be honest, for all the general grimness just now, it sounds from what you say like we’ve got the best of it.

      And yes, no malicious mischief from me—though I warn you. no turnip is safe!

      Stay warm!

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